Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Heavenly

I've only got moments to write.  Only moments left of 2013, the year which will, from here and now until forever, be remembered as the year without my son.

Except tonight, the last day of this full and busy and peaceful and crazy and heart wrenching year without my son, I'm actually not without him at all.

He's in the adjoining hotel room playing UNO.

Nap time, right now, these few stolen moments in which I can write.  Playing chaperone to those little people that desperately need sleep, especially after the craziness of yesterday, when we picked their big brother up from his school and drove up and down through winding roads, cows on each side. There was a long hike deep into a mountain cave, and then shows and rides and magical train rides in a make-believe night of shining lights.  Yes, nap time was needed.

And here I lie on the first queen bed, hearing the deep, even breathing of two, and futilely hoping the toddler will join them.  Last night, I remember, I was lying in this same bed.  Lying here, listening.

Last night, I could hear my oldest son's even breathing, too.  A new, almost man-like breathe of sound sleep, intermingled with the sleep-sounds of all the people I love the most strewn about the beds and floor of a single hotel room.

It was heavenly.

2013, you've come full circle.  You, the year without my son, will tonight give birth to the year that will (hopefully) bring my son home.  I'm ready for you, 2014.  For whatever it is you hold.  God lead the way.


Monday, December 16, 2013

Beauty

There is beauty in having a big family.

Beauty that I never knew was possible before, when I was caught up in how many children I thought I wanted, or how much money I thought I needed, or how many fashionable clothes hung on hangers in my closet, each outfit with a pair of shoes to match.

Yes, there is beauty.  Unimaginable beauty in having no spare time to do what I want to do, no spare money to buy what I want to buy, and almost no idea of what I even would buy if I was given the chance because I'm so totally wrapped up in living for other people instead of myself.

I have always been a selfish person.

I've done what I wanted to do.
I haven't done what I haven't felt like doing.
I've said what I wanted to say.
I've gone where I wanted to go, and bought what I wanted to buy.

I've lived my life how I felt like living it, and not for other people.

Yes, I've been selfish.  It's easy when you have no children, or only a few children, or when your children aren't with you for much of the time.  When there's time to think about the things you want, which are so often the things that you really don't need; when there are hours and hours of your day that are not devoted to meeting the needs and desires of precious little people that are with you constantly and always seem to want your attention.

I am rarely given the chance to be selfish anymore.

And this is beautiful.

Don't look down on me because I have a big family.

I am blessed more abundantly than anyone I know.

Don't pity me because I'm overrun night and day by people who need me, or because I rarely have a few moments off.

I have grown more from serving my children than I ever could have grown from "me-time".

Don't judge me poorly because I've chosen to give up my freedom for these children, some broken, some healing, and some totally na├»ve about the pains of the world.

There is beauty in giving up your dreams, your desires, your freedom, your fancy vacations, your extra spending money, whatever it may be, and in living your life daily for others who depend on you.

There is beauty in waking up one day and realizing that their dreams and desires have become your dreams and desires, too.

And then it hits you. 
You're not nearly as selfish as you used to be.

Beautiful.

I have a beautiful life.




  


photography by Andrew Bowser


 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Important

I stayed home from church this morning because my toddler threw up last night.

All. Over. His. Crib.

Ah, the joys of parenting.

He actually threw up the night before, too, but after an entire twenty-four hours of puke-free bliss, we assumed it had been an isolated event and fed him accordingly.

Alas, we were mistaken.

I have to say, my husband is the best puke-picker-upper in the whole wide world.  I don't do well with puke.  When I'm around it, it takes everything in me to not become a sympathy puker, if you know what I mean, and while I'm positive that my husband doesn't enjoy scrubbing vomit from various textures of fabric and floor coverings, he does so immediately and without a word, leaving me to tend to the distraught little puker.

I really love that man.

Anyway, my poor baby, my little Mr. K, is two-and-three-quarter years old.  Not old enough to explain that he's feeling nauseous, not old enough to understand that he's about to throw up, and definitely not old enough to aim for a bucket, hence the crib-full of nastiness. (Mr. K is not a fan of his puke bucket, not even after we decorated it with vehicle stickers to make it more "inviting").

One thing Mr. K does know at his tender age, though, is that Mama and Daddy love him and will take care of him...no matter what.  He is unmistakably secure.  As soon as I heard him scream last night, I rushed up the stairs and into his room.  I picked him up, I carried him to the bathroom, I wiped his face and his tears, reassured him, gave him a bath, dressed him in clean jammies, sang to him, and snuggled him until he was ready to go back to bed.  Then Daddy brushed his teeth and carried him back upstairs, tucking him into his freshly washed bed.

He felt safe.
He felt loved.
He felt like the most important person in the world.

While bathing my pruny toddler last night, washing away all evidence of sickness with bubbles and giggles and rubber duckies, I couldn't help but compare this situation with the first time Miss M was sick in our home, only months after she came to us.  She was four years old.  Like Mr. K, she got sick during the night, after we had put her to bed. 

We found her in the morning, wide awake and caked in dried vomit.

Why?  Why didn't she call for us?

She didn't feel safe.
She didn't know she was loved.
She had learned early in her life that she wasn't the most important thing to anybody.

Heartbreaking.

Attachment is a real thing, people.  It isn't just a parenting style, it isn't a belief, it isn't some sort of philosophy about never disciplining your children and letting them do whatever they want.  Attachment is something that every single child needs, and especially in those critical first three years of life. Children need to know that their cries will be heard and their needs will be met and that they are important and valuable and priceless just because they are, and not because of what they do.

Hug your babies.  Hold them.  Rock them for hours, sometimes even in the middle of the night when your eyelids will hardly stay open and all you can think of is sleep.  You'll have the rest of your life to sleep, and only these precious few years to shape your baby's world.  Give your babies your time.

And those toddlers, discipline them in love.  Don't spoil them, teach them to obey and to help and to do nice things for others, but also read books and share secrets and plant sloppy zerberts on their bare little bellies.  Hug them and wrestle with them and tell them you love them. Every. Single. Day. Spend as much time with them as you can, treasure them, and they will learn that they are treasures.  Give them the best chance at life: teach your little ones that they're important.

  



It took several years, but Miss M now readily seeks us out whenever she doesn't feel well or is in pain.  We can't always fix it, but we're so thankful that she now knows that we love her and seems to understand that we want to take care of her.  We're working on helping her to believe that she is priceless...a child of the King, created in His image, and worthy of being loved.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Mama and Miss M

My blog has been hijacked this past year by often-dreary accounts of Mr. J and his attachment-influenced journey into adolescence.  I'm kind of an emotional writer, and, especially when I don't have a ton of spare time (any homeschooling mamas with five kids at home want to vouch for me?), I tend to sit down to write only when the emotions are high and I feel like I'll burst if I don't get them out.

Which is why my fourteen-year-old son, who has frequently dominated my emotions, has also dominated my posts for a long while.

In my preoccupation with Mr. J, though, I'm afraid I've neglected to update on something miraculous and incredibly important:

My daughter, Miss M, is doing really, really well.

Actually, if I'm being completely honest, Miss M and I are doing really well.

This fall, I began my third year of homeschooling Miss M.  This means that she and I have been predominantly together since June of 2011, when she finished second grade. 

It's been two years and five months. 
That is a  l o n g ,  l o n g   t i m e .

In the beginning, I wondered how I would ever survive being with my daughter nearly every waking moment.  If you recall, she was an extremely difficult child to be around.  I'll leave it at that, but if you look up any posts about Miss M from a few years ago, you'll get the picture. (Look under the RAD posts tab at the top of the page if you need a refresher).

On top of that, at the time that God asked me to homeschool, I was a frustrated, hurt, angry, bitter, traumatized and (more than I care to admit) unforgiving Mama. 

No one likes to talk about it, but parenting RAD kids often brings out the worst in us.  The beautiful intentions of helping and healing and loving that hurt child get pushed to the back burner as each day - day after day, year after year - becomes a matter of survival.  You become a control freak, because all a RAD child wants (every waking moment) is to control you, and you start to become paranoid about the motives behind every little thing your child says.  On top of that, even "good days" are not good days, because of the anticipation of them becoming "bad days" in a moment or less. 

There are no easy, relaxing days in a family with traumatized children; RAD parents are constantly on edge.

So, needless to say, after she finished second grade, I felt like I needed to - even deserved to continue to send Miss M to school, even though it was a toxic environment for her. 

But God had other plans for us.
Miss M is reaching for healing!

Two years and five months into this journey of forced togetherness, my daughter and I are (for the most part...tween drama aside) peacefully building a mother/daughter relationship.  Things aren't perfect: Miss M still has goals to accomplish on the path to her healing, although she's come remarkably far, and I definitely have a ways to go on my journey to become like Christ, but we are both moving forward.  Together.

In the beginning, I doubted that it could ever be true, but I'm a better person for having spent these last twenty-nine months with my little Miss M, and she's a much healthier and happier girl for having spent it with me.  I thought God was crazy when He asked me to give up my life, in a sense, for this child.  I understand now that the best place to be is always inside of God's will.  Follow His leading, trust Him, and the rest will somehow fall into place. 

I'm very proud of my daughter; of the vibrant, empathetic young lady I've seen emerging from the broken shell of RAD in recent months.

And I'm very thankful to God for using Miss M and her struggles to overcome some of the worst in myself.

I'm beyond excited to see where He takes us next.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Halloween

I realize that Halloween and any celebration of its festivities is an extremely hot topic among Christians.  I know full well that Halloween has its roots in Paganism and is associated with all sorts of evil.  We avoid the scary, evil and grotesque aspects of the holiday; however, my family does choose to participate in what we deem to be harmless Halloween traditions, including dressing up, pumpkin carving, and trick-or-treating.  I'll tell you why at the end.  

______________________________________________________________________________

Seven years ago today, my sister and brother-in-law pulled out of our driveway after a tearful goodbye, leaving their two small brown-eyed foster children behind in our living room.  It was a moment that had been in the works for quite a while, ever since God had made it clear to all of us (Scott and me, my sister and her husband) that it was our house and not theirs that these two kids should call home.  (There was, of course, an entire agency, a lawyer, and a judge that were also on board, but that's a story for a different day.)

As the foster family they had called theirs for a solid year drove away, those two sets of big brown eyes looked unsure and apprehensive, clueless about what the future might hold for them.  The larger, supposedly more prepared two sets of blue eyes in the room mirrored those emotions perfectly...with perhaps just a touch of panic mixed in.  Our baby daughter, only eleven months old, had no idea how her life was about to change.

It was two days before Halloween.

Grasping for some way to make it through those first few days of weirdness; hoping to kindle some sort of a sense of belonging in the hearts of our hours-old "family", we started our very first family tradition.

We carved our pumpkin together. 
We ate donuts and drank hot apple cider. 
We watched the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown movie.
And we told our new children that we would do this every. single. year.

Because we were a family now...
         ...and having traditions was part of being a family.

Tonight will be our eighth "Gotcha-Day" Halloween harvest party as a family. 

Things have changed a little bit each year.  Sometimes we have jack-o-lantern pizzas and cake, sometimes pumpkin pie or pumpkin cookies and candy corn.  Sometimes we team-carve one gigantic pumpkin, each choosing the shape of a different facial feature, and other years every person has their own pumpkin to carve.  Long about the third year, we came up with the idea of choosing a costume theme and dressing up elaborately as a family, which became yet another tradition. 

We have a great time together.

There have been some really significant changes over the years, as well.  Three little brothers have been added to the mix since that first party, and our oldest son, one of the two brown-eyed children for whom we first brought the tradition into existence, is celebrating his second "Gotcha-Day" away from the embrace of our family. 

And yet, I believe with all my heart that our Halloween traditions have brought our family closer.  In the beginning, it was just the thought in a broken child's mind that there really might be a "next year" with this family, and as each "next year" turns over into the next, we simply have a blast brainstorming the possibilities and coordinating our costumes, at least a year in advance, for the following Halloween.  It's always been something we can talk about and look forward to, even when the pain and pressure of raising these two hurt kids has overshadowed everything else.  And for some unexplainable reason, walking around town looking like a giant bunch of weirdos each October has bonded us together in entirely new ways.

Our family is closer together because of Halloween.

______________________________________________________________________________

Okay, here it is.  First, I have nothing but respect for people who feel convicted to forgo the celebration of Halloween.  You can't go wrong when you are praying, fasting, and seeking God's will in every situation, and it's awesome that you've felt His hand leading you in that direction.  We, however, have seen God working through the celebration of Halloween at our house. 

Don't believe me?

We serve a God who specializes in making old things new and bad things good and ugly things beautiful.  I am living proof.  God is a God of redemption, and He can redeem even the most Pagan of holidays and use them for His good if He so chooses. 

Please, let's stop the Christian-against-Christian fighting and bashing and heated debating about the observation of traditions that were once associated with Pagan things.  There are many evil things in this world, many things labeled as clearly so in the Bible, but I don't believe that costumes and pumpkins and candy collection are inherently evil.
 
I'm convinced that Satan is filled with glee when He gets believers fighting amongst themselves, further separating the already-fragmented church of Jesus Christ.  Let's be peacemakers.

How do you feel about the subject?  I would love to hear your opinions.  Respectfully worded, of course.  ;)
 
 
 

       

Monday, September 30, 2013

One Year Ago Today

It's been a year. 
One year ago today was the last day our son set foot in this home, the last day he woke up under our roof, the last day he was so close that I could touch him...

...and yet my touch could do nothing to soothe the long-buried rage that erupted from deep within.

One year ago today was the last day these walls...and our little children's eyes...lay witness to the violence that had become almost commonplace in the months before. 

Violent rage had become the routine.

So sad, looking back.  Sad that our little ones knew what to do when he flew out of control.

Go to the school room.
Close the door.
Strap the baby into his booster seat.
Pick out a movie.
Turn it up loud.
Wait for Grandma to get here.

My parents, ten minutes away, had been "on-call" for much of the summer.  One year ago today, Grandma was here, in the room with the kids.  Papa was upstairs helping Scott with Mr. J. 

Angry and frightened and more traumatized than I realized at the time, I had been firmly instructed to get away, go downstairs.  I was pregnant, and he had already threatened to kick me in the stomach more than once.  It would be months before I would stop involuntarily jumping at the slightest sound.

Trauma goes both ways, you see. 
The traumatized child becomes the traumatizer. 
The victim becomes the aggressor.
And the family that refuses to give up on love will come out on the other side with the battle scars to show for it.

We will never be the same.

Some changes have been good, have taught us to be more like Christ...
...to rely more fully on Him. 
But other changes are just layer upon layer of hurt and fear and pain and uncertainty...

...making me long for Heaven. 

One year ago today, we called the police, and they came. 
When they left, they took our son with them.

A difficult day, to be sure, but also a day of relief.

It's been a year of peace and healing. 
Of letting our guard down and actually living again.
We've been able to reflect, reevaluate, and gain new perspective on the events of last summer.
We've been able to breathe.

Our son is not grown up yet.  He's not secure and healthy and happy. 
He still needs us.

May this time of refreshment prepare us for whatever lies ahead.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Fruit

This time last year, I had a really awesome vegetable garden.  It was so awesome, in fact, that my little kids had to exercise teamwork just to get a single cucumber across the yard and into the house.  (I kid you not. Those suckers were HUGE).  The tomatoes were so plentiful, I began experimenting with fresh salsa recipes, heading up to the garden to pick a basket brimming with 'matoes each time I felt the urge.  And still, their remaining kin were left to rot on the bushes or, better yet, to provide the local mammalian with delicious, juicy red snacks.  Apparently, our furry neighbors enjoy tomatoes a heap of a lot more than my mom-in-law, who can barely look one in the eye.

Anyway, I didn't mind sharing our garden with the animals last year, although I admit there were a few hard feelings toward the deer or whatever-it-may-have-been that chewed all the leaves off my acorn squash vines, resulting in an entirely acorn-squashless fall.  I'm still a bit bitter.  However, squash aside, there were plenty of fresh veggies to go around.  I would've been happy to have sent Mom home with her own brimming basket of tomatoes if I'd thought for a moment she'd have taken them.

Being our first garden, we kept the variety to a minimum last summer. Cucumbers, tomatoes, squash, corn, peas.  Every seed that we planted seemed to sprout forth from the earth with a sense of pride in its purpose.  Each plant bore its fruit with gusto; except those blasted deer-eaten acorn squashes (see? still bitter) and the peas, which withered and croaked under the scorching sun of the hottest summer I can remember in Michigan.  In spite of the horrible heat, the rest of our garden grew and thrived and yielded well into the fall.

And then there were the pumpkins.... 

Pumpkins!

Last fall's bountiful harvest
We had oodles and oodles of pumpkins; a whole jolly-orange pumpkin patch sprouting up from our field in which we had simply dropped and covered a few handfuls of seeds.  The pumpkins grew proudly in such aggressive numbers that we were able to have our entire Sunday school class over for a pumpkin picking party (a PPP?) in October.  Each child in every family went home with a pumpkin, and my kids were still able to make a handful of cash at their little roadside pumpkin stand. 

We made such great plans for the next summer's garden. 
Bigger. 
Better.
New and different varieties. 
More pumpkins,
more people over to pick them,
more money made at the little roadside stand.

Lots and lots and lots of plans.

And that's where my happy little tale ends.  With plans and good intentions.  If you only like stories with rainbows and unicorns and lovely fairy-tale endings, then stop reading.....NOW.

Because this summer,
I discovered that I'm a really crappy farmer.

True story.  Cocky and confident from our garden success last year, we just threw some seeds in the ground again this spring and expected great things.  Never mind that we planted everything about a month later than planned (this happened last year, too!).  Never mind that we really never researched what we were doing.  Never mind that LAST year, the actual farmer that "for-real" farms the acres around our property had mistakenly treated, plowed and fertilized our entire little piece of earth on which our inexperienced hands then threw their handfuls of seeds. 

Hmmmm. 
Could well-prepared soil have had something to do with the success of last year's garden?

Sometime this summer, I was standing forlornly in the overgrown weed-patch that had, a year ago, been our thriving garden.  I was sad and frustrated.  We had spent days planting this garden.  We'd worked hard.  We'd doubled our pumpkin patch space in anticipation of using it to bless more families in the fall.  I had been so excited to see everything begin to grow, and the kids had been looking forward to setting up their little produce stand.  I'd even planted several extra squash plants to share with the deer.

What really got me, though, was that I had prayed over this garden.  I'd asked God to bless the fruits of our labor so that we could share them with others.  We'd watered and weeded and watched, but the weeds grew in by the hundreds, faster than we could pick them.  The seedlings didn't grow as quickly as they had before; they couldn't keep up with the weeds and got choked out.  For the most part, our garden has been a disaster. 

All because we didn't first prepare the soil.

Why did I think I could skip such a crucial step?  Do I really think that farmers spend all that time and energy preparing their fields for nothing?!  Did I think I was above the dirty work and that God would bless my work and desire to serve Him when I wasn't even willing to put in the effort to prepare the soil?

I have a lot to learn about farming and gardening.  Over the winter, there will be some serious research going on in this house in preparation of spring.  What's funny, though, is that what I actually learned this summer has a lot more to do with myself than with gardening.
Last year's pumpkin patch.

You see, I'm not just a crappy farmer.
Sometimes, I'm a really crappy follower of Christ. 

So often, I've barreled into my life saying "Lord, today I am going to serve you!  These are my plans.  Please bless the fruits of my labor even though I refuse to or forget to or neglect to prepare the soil of my life by reading Your Word and by spending significant time with You today."

How can I possibly expect to yield a bountiful harvest in my life if I haven't first prepared the soil?

I'm committing to change.  To never again waste my seeds of faith and service in unprepared soil.  I want the fruit that my life produces to be God-honoring, God-blessed, and accomplished with my eyes firmly fixed on Him.  From now on, I begin each day with Him.  Only then can I give the fruit of my life...my marriage, kids, babies, homeschooling, friendships, music, writing, and anything else He puts in my path...only then can I give it the best chance to flourish.

And if this change in me and in the fruit that I bear is the result of the complete and utter failure of the garden I asked God to bless, then I guess He answered that prayer more beautifully and fully than I ever could have imagined.

Maybe next year?


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Progress

I broke my camera.

Not to worry.  It's currently at the camera hospital, and I'm hoping it will make a quick and full recovery.  However, a broken camera means that it's really super hard for me to give an update about our trip to see our son.

Why, you ask?

Because I'm a photographer. 
And a perfectionist. 
And my brain can't process the thought of doing an update without pictures...

...and I have pictures on that camera that I desperately want to include in this update.

(In hindsight, I probably should have purchased a card reader so I would never be in this exact predicament.  Hmmm.  Might want to do that before I go and break my camera again.)

Anyway, several people have been asking about our trip, and some have indicated that they're waiting patiently for this post.  And since my camera may be gone for another week or two (is it weird that I feel a little lost without it?), I'm going to go ahead and write it. 

For your amusement, though, I thought I'd punctuate the post with a few pictures I uploaded from my little point-and-shoot camera...which I let my kids use on the trip.  Enjoy!

First off, some awesome news:

Our visit with Mr. J went really, really well!

Yay!  We weren't incredibly nervous this time.  Not sick-to-your-stomach kind of nervous like back in April.  But still...with everything we've been through with Mr. J, there are always a few nerves involved.  We needn't have worried; the good behavior that he's been exhibiting at school transferred beautifully to being off-campus with his family.

We had some great conversations with the rest of our kids before we saw Mr. J on that first day, too.  Miss J, age seven, summed up what most of us (me, Scott, my mom and dad, Mr. C, 5 years) were feeling.  She said:

               "I'm really excited to see (Mr. J) today...
                   ...but inside I feel kinda nervous, too."

Exactly.  The only one who didn't have age-appropriate emotions was Miss M, which is no surprise.  Emotionally, Miss M is far younger than her eleven years.  She's very black-and-white in her thinking, and couldn't understand why we would be nervous since Mr. J has been "being good" recently.  It did give us a chance to explain (again) how your actions determine how much people trust you in the future, and how damage can be done to relationships.  One of these days, we're hoping the empathy and emotional intelligence piece kicks in! 


Baby A, Mr. J, Little K, and Daddy's beard.
We'd planned out the four-day visit beforehand, trying to balance fun activities with quiet, quality family time in a way that wouldn't overwhelm anyone.  One of our biggest concerns was how Mr. J and little Mr. K would respond to one another.  Our oldest son has always adored his baby siblings, but Little K was less than eighteen months old when Mr. J began having serious difficulties, and he hadn't seen his big brother in almost a year since.  We were afraid that K wouldn't remember his brother, would be fearful or timid, and worried how that could make Mr. J feel.  So, Scott and I headed out that first morning to see Mr. J with only the two littlest guys.

Little K was a bit timid at first.  It took him a few minutes to realize that Mr. J was the same brother that he has told us "lives on da phone" or is "working hard on da school bus" (we pray daily that he's working hard and healing at school).  It didn't take long for him to realize that his brother liked him, thought he was funny, and wanted to spend time with him, though, and he was at ease in no time at all.  Mr. J was surprised by how much he's changed.  K was barely talking a year ago, and now he doesn't stop!

With the first hurdle jumped, we left the school with our oldest son in tow.  It was a strange sensation to actually have him with us!  We eventually met up with the rest of the family at a park, where we had a picnic and spent the afternoon catching crayfish, playing Frisbee and catch, and munching on treats - all things we've always enjoyed as a family.  It was a good first day.

A lovely portrait of our oldest and youngest sons.
The rest of the visit was a bit of a blur.  We spent Sunday with Mr. J at his school, attending church with him, eating lunch there, and allowing Mr. J to give the family a tour of the animals on the ranch.  Monday morning, we had a professional family picture taken, which was one of my biggest goals for this trip. 

RAD kids try so hard to push away the people who love them, especially when they feel unsafe or out-of-control, that I was eager to make this statement by getting our portraits taken:

"In spite of everything, you are still part of our family and we are still here for you". 

Besides the picnic at the park and the family picture, we also made a quick trip to the zoo during our visit, went out for a couple nice family dinners, went bowling, shopped for new shoes, and sat around our cabin while the kids played UNO.  Basically, we tried to do all the simple things we've missed doing together as a family.  Mr. J played with each of his siblings, frequently wanted to hold the baby, wrestled with five-year-old Mr. C (who has missed his wrestling buddy terribly) and was respectful and agreeable the entire time.


There were a few tender moments, too.  Moments only for me and my son, that can only be evidenced by the tears running down my cheeks as I write this.  I prayed then that God might help me treasure those moments and ponder them in my heart, just like Mary, and this remains my prayer: that I might cling to what I know  is true and not hold on to the bitterness of last year. 

What I know to be true:

God is good all the time, and He's got my son in His hands. 

Despite all the heartache, the rage, the trauma, the bad choices and the threats, my son loves me.  He loves his family.  He wishes none of this had ever happened, and I believe strongly that, like every teenager, he's struggling to discover who he is and to find his place in the world.  It's just harder for him because of the trauma and uncertainty of his first seven years of life.

It's our job as his parents to stick with him as he figures out who he is, who he is in Christ, and what it means for him to be adopted... not only into our family but into God's.

Saying goodbye was almost unbearable this time.  Words of love and encouragement and forgiveness were spoken, hugs were given, tears were shed....except from Miss M, who basically said "See you in December!" :)  And then we walked out through the front doors one last time, leaving a piece of our hearts behind. 

We had never been together before.  Not all of us, since Baby A was born after Mr. J was gone.  I will never again take for granted the simple blessing of having my entire family in one place at the same time.  The blessing of eating dinner around the same table, of looking back and seeing all six of my children riding together in the van.

It was amazing to finally be a complete family of eight...
...a preview of what's yet to come, Lord willing...

...even if this time, it was only for four days. 

_________________________________________________________________________


Please keep praying for our son.  He's made tons of progress since our first visit in April.  He actually wants to succeed, and has even moved up another "rank" since we left two weeks ago!  We aren't under any delusions that everything is perfect because his behavior is good, but we are really excited to see him in control of himself once again.  Our hope all along has been that Mr. J would be able to regulate himself, control his rage, and would get to a place emotionally where he's willing to start the long road to healing.  More importantly, willing to let God work in his life.  Pray that he's truly headed in that direction!

And for your enjoyment, a few more noteworthy photos I found on my camera:

A goat.

A sidewalk?


A dead zebra head mounted on a brick wall.
Pretty sure this is the tablecloth...

A tortoise.  Or rather, a tortoise leg.

 Oh, how I want my camera back.  :)
 

Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm Driving Her Crazy

I really shouldn't be writing right now.

The very fact that I am writing right now, when I have a bajillion different things I should be doing, is the perfect illustration for what I've got to say.

Which is this:

Sometimes, an ADHD Mama can drive a RAD kid crazy.

I know, I know, I know.  Usually it's the RAD kids that spend their time driving their mothers crazy.  They feel this desperate need to control everything that goes on around them, and totally flip out/melt down/cease to function/become confrontational/annoy the pants off you/etc. when they can't.  Fact is, they need to learn that they can't control everything.  They need to learn that they can trust you to make the best decisions and to take care of everything they need.

And Miss M is learning. 
S l o w l y.  But definitely learning. 

Today, though, I feel just a bit sorry for the poor girl.

We're getting ready to leave for our trip to see Mr. J, and my method for trip preparation is making my control-seeking daughter insane.  To be fair, I really have no solidified method, which (I suppose) could drive any number of organized and schedule-keeping people crazy.  Do you know any of those super-focused and un-spontaneous people that never learned to just fly by the seat of their pants?  Maybe you even are one?  Would this drive you crazy, too?

Here's my ADHD-influenced method of packing for seven people:

1. I wake up at the regular time on the morning of the day I think we might leave.
2. I plan a departure time of "later tonight" or "sometime in the middle of the night" or "possibly tomorrow morning".
3. I begin doing all the laundry in the house.
4. As the laundry comes out of the dryer, I figure I'll put whatever we need into duffel bags.
5. I forget to change the laundry.
6. I spend an hour choosing DVDs for the car ride.
7. I gather things (completely randomly and one-at-a-time) as they come to mind.
8. When packing books, I get distracted and begin reading a book.
9. I forget to change the laundry.
10. I make a delicious fresh veggie tray.
11. I realize I still have to pack all our clothes and toiletries.
12. I write a blog post.
13. I forget to change the laundry.

   
"Mom, when are we leaving?  In the morning?  After nap time?"

"I don't know. When we're done packing."

"When will we be done packing?"

"I don't know. When I can't think of anything else to bring."

"Are we almost done?  Are we staying in a hotel tonight?  Are we driving all night?  Are we sleeping here?  Why can't you just tell me what time we're leaving?!" 

"I don't know what time we're leaving! Quit bugging me! We'll go just as soon as the mood strikes me!"


It's *almost* funny how much ADHD and RAD clash on a day like today.

Poor, poor kid. 

Guess I better go change the laundry.

Friday, August 9, 2013

This Summer

Wow, has it been a busy summer!  In some ways, we're having the first-summer-in-our-farmhouse-summer that we thought we would have last year, before our lives spiraled totally out of control.  We are, of course, minus one child and plus one baby from this time a year ago, but besides the obvious family upheaval both those facts create, we're just kind of taking it easy. 

Baby K - Our Little Farmer
Daddy is home all the time in the summer, which is beyond cool (I really like that guy), and we've started a handful of household and yard projects that should hopefully be finished by this fall....or maybe next fall....or at least some fall (fingers crossed).  We've also planted a garden, learned that gardens should be fertilized and weeded and that you shouldn't procrastinate when planting a garden, done a little school, taken several day trips to zoos and whatnot, and spent lots of time outside.  Baby A is a joy and is growing like the weeds in our garden, and Baby K (who is two-and-a-half and insists that he is still Mama's "big baby") is wreaking general adorable havoc on our lives as the first baby in our family to have read the book on terrible twos. 

Happy Baby!!!
I would say we've adjusted to our new normal...or at least as normal as this family gets. 

And me?  I have good days and bad.  Days when I would like to skip the step of pulling out my hair and jump right to shaving my head bald, and days when I know that I'm the most blessed girl there ever has been.  I've had tons of fun this summer, and days full of sadness.  Life is kinda like that for me.  Black and white.  Beautiful or ugly.  Headed in the right direction or falling apart.  God's working on me with that, reminding me that my happiness lies in Him and not in life's circumstances.  But hey, I'm a work in progress.  Thank goodness, too.  I would never be content to be this me for the rest of my life. 

This me is super busy, super tired (and periodically ornery), and has spent the entire summer losing the same five pounds over and over again.  At least I've kept up-to-date on my blog, though.  Wait.  That's not true.  What I meant to say was, at least I haven't wasted my writing time each day playing Candy Crush.

Wait.  Maybe I have.

See?  Work in progress, baby.  Work in progress.





Please pray for us this month!  We are headed out fairly soon to see Mr. J, this time as a family.  He has continued to make progress at his school, and sounds really excited to see us!  Pray that God does miraculous things during this visit in the way of healing, and that He ties our heartstrings together as only He can do.  God has been amazing and ever-present in this whole situation, and we know He will continue to do great things!  Thanks for praying with us!


Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Motherhood

This exact moment, begging to be frozen in time.

Sitting here, fragrance of toddler poo spread like a blanket on the inside of my nose and throat; dry heaves wondering if a green smoothie looks any different on the way back up.

Sitting here, heart beating an angry rhythm, watching a poop-covered tub-occupant clumsily wash himself with a bar of Daddy's soap; little chunks of number two bobbing in the wake.

Deep breaths, Mama, deep breaths.

Blood pressure slowly descending now. 
Initial fury at discovery of finger-painted masterpiece subsiding.

Canvas: crib
Medium: crap
Frequency: third time in as many months

Calming down now.
Calming down tubside while sitting on the throne, of all places. 
I love me some irony.

Nursing a baby, working through frustration with one available hand pecking words tumbling out, directing little puppeteers from room adjoining, and bathing a toddler covered hands, legs and cheeks (both sets) in greenish poo all while sitting on (sitting on, not using, mind you) an ugly 1970s greenish-gold toilet.

My life is less than glamorous.

And now I'm looking at my toddler, soap slipping between wrinkled fingers, getting away from little hands.  Fingers grasping, soap jumping.  Grasping and slipping and jumping.  And laughing.  Eyes smiling, squeals of delight, chubby cheeks all pushed up in million-dollar grins carved out of caked-on poo.

Frustration is lost.

How I love those poo-covered cheeks, and that poo-covered little boy who just yesterday was the nursing baby in my arms, and now uses manners and builds with "yegos" and is washing up all by himself with Daddy's green bar of soap.

And I look away for a moment, more words pecked out, and suddenly he's screaming, bubbly hands rubbing eyes all over.  Soap in eyes, stinging, hurting.  And guilt.  My poor baby, why on earth did I give you Daddy's soap?  Tear-free was far from my mind when I plopped you in that tub.

Rinsing and screaming and rinsing and screaming and shaky breaths drawn from still-sobbing lungs.  Mama makes it better, but Mama is so sorry she gave you that soap in the first place, little man.


I couldn't resist taking a picture. 
Call it payback if you will, but I have the feeling
this photo will pop up in the future.
Hour lost in scrubbing and playing and hair-washing screams that can never be avoided, and singing "scrub your toddler" songs.  And then drying and cuddling, wrapped in arms and a towel, I love on my sweet-scented barely-bigger-than-a-baby.  This wonderful, frustrating two-year-old, who knows his own mind and yet makes no sense at all; with the joy of discovering life dancing alive in his beautiful long-lashed blue eyes. 

And I know I'd scrub poo off him for a thousand years if he needed me to.

This is motherhood.  At its best, and at its worst.  This is my life, replayed over and over inside the core of each day coming end on end.  Anger, laughter, pride, fury, frustration, joy, guilt, and endless work, smiles, cuddles, love and wonder.  Always the wonder.

My heart overflows.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

New Hope of Spring

Last fall was undeniably one of the worst seasons we've experienced in our history as a family.  Circumstances felt so bleak at times that it was difficult to see joy in any situation, impossible to grasp it, hold onto it, and coax it out from beneath the dark veil that clouded every aspect of life. 

Our family was so traumatized last fall that we were scarcely able to function.  The pain, anger and uncertainty bled over into everything we did, everything we said, everything we felt, and for one of the first times in my life, I understood what it meant to feel desperately hopeless.

But we were never completely without hope.

While we were exhausted and afflicted, God sent others to hope for us.  They prayed for us, prayed with us, held our hands, and listened to the mourning of our hearts.  They brought us meals, brought us groceries, offered to watch our children, accompanied us to meetings and appointments, and sent us cards and letters of encouragement.  They helped us financially, and committed to it in the future as well.  They thought of us, Bibles in hand, and shared scriptures that lifted us up when we were at our lowest. 

The people of God loved on us like crazy, and it was beautiful; the body of Christ working together the way God intended.

One of the most beautiful things that was done for us in the midst of our darkness was done by some precious friends, friends with a rambunctious young family much like our own.  They drove an hour just to be with us, and spent time filling the garden around our house with bulbs that would bloom in the spring.  They prayed over each of those bulbs as they planted, and they reminded us that spring comes after every dark season, and spring is filled with new life and new hope.

I was moved to tears often as I thought about those bulbs during the winter.  Our son's behavior was still out of control at his school, and I kept thinking "Okay, God. Spring is almost here!"  I eagerly anticipated the day when we would see the first shoots of life springing from those bulbs, breaking through the dirt and on up towards the sun. 

And that day finally came - the week before we left to visit Mr. J at school for the first time.  Coincidentally (and by coincidentally I mean not coincidentally in the least), it was around the same time that we heard the first positive news from the staff at our son's school. 

Mr. J appeared to be trying.

Scott and I had a great visit with our eldest son over Easter weekend.  We played games, toured the school, talked cordially about nothing serious, and introduced Mr. J to his new baby brother.  There were no deep conversations and no apologies, but there were no fits of rage or irrational behavior, either.  There were even a few moments of tenderness, when our son couldn't keep the tears from running down his face, and when he let me comfort him.  When we had to say goodbye on the final day, we left him sitting at the table, head buried in folded arms, sobbing.  I did the same in the parking lot.

Yet in spite of all the tears, or perhaps because of all the tears, I finally have a new hope of my own.

The biggest sign of hope God has given us is that somewhere between last fall and this spring, our son has moved from "I'll kill you if I come home" or "I'm never coming home" to "When I come home...".

He's written that he wants to change his life so things will be different when he comes back, and although he's still struggling frequently with anger and irrational outbursts, he seems to be recovering more quickly, picking himself up, and trying again.  We remain hopeful.

Spring is here at last.








If you are one of those people that brought hope to our family last fall and continue to do so as we walk this difficult journey, we thank you and love you more than we could ever express.  Please continue to pray us through this process, specifically for Mr. J's continued change of heart, and for his eventual emotional and mental healing.  He still has a long way to go.  Please pray that we can offer grace and unconditional love in spite of everything our family has been through.


  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Labor of Love

It's starting to hurt again.

The bad days, the bad behavior, the bad attitude.
The disrespect, the lying, the words spoken out in absolute unreasonable anger.

It's hurting like crazy again, which means I've allowed the walls around my heart to crumble.  Crack.  Crash down to the ground, which scares the heck out of me.

My heart is unprotected.

I've done it again.  I've allowed the love I have for this hurt little girl to get the best of me, and it makes the good days oh so much better...beautiful, really.  It makes my heart soar.  It makes me happy, and my daughter happy, and it breathes a spark of life into the precious bond that's blossoming before my eyes.

The good days are so good right now.
But the bad days are so bad, and I can't even explain how much it hurts.

It sounds cruel, perhaps.  It isn't purposeful.  When someone hurts you day after day after day for years on end, rejects you, spews hate at you, I suppose it's human nature to protect your heart.  To not allow yourself to get too close or to care too much.  To become almost hard-hearted and indifferent, building walls sky-high, for then you aren't caught off-guard when the inevitable happens again.

A sturdy wall never leaves you shattered and broken, scrambling to pick up the pieces of your heart. 

But a sturdy wall never leaves room to build a bridge between two wounded hearts, either. 

My pain is necessary for my daughter to heal.  

Like the birthing of a baby, when the labor pains are so excruciating you feel you can't possibly go on for one more fraction of a moment, and then somehow you endure, and you persevere, and you set all the determination of your spirit on the one thing you know you must do.  At the end of all that pain, there's the unspeakable joy of having brought a whole new child into the world, and you know you would go through all that pain again and again for the miracle of that child.

I didn't birth this daughter, but I'm laboring for her all the same.   

At the end of all this pain, this labor of love, I believe I'll have the unspeakable joy of having brought a whole new child into the world.  A whole, happy, healthy, loved and loving, securely attached child. 

And I know I'd go through it all again for the miracle of that child.
___________________________________________________________________


I cried out today: "God, help me to love her whole-heartedly, with everything in me.  I can't do it on my own.  No matter how much it hurts, Lord, help me love her with my whole heart."

Softly, He spoke to my soul:  "You already do."

My Father is so good to me, He's with me on my way.
He watches every step I take, He hears each word I say.
Sometimes He smiles at my attempts, sometimes He hangs His head,
Sometimes His strong arms hold me up when I've left myself for dead.
No matter all the ugliness that's left my sinful tongue,
No matter all my gross misdeeds, the sorry tunes I've sung,
My Father has not left my side, not even for a day.
He'll walk with me through this dark night. Oh, Father, lead the way.





Saturday, March 23, 2013

Mine

If you had been mine from the beginning, I would have cried tears of joy as soon as I knew you were growing inside me.

If you had been mine from the beginning, Daddy and I would have stayed up late at night dreaming about you: who you would be, what you would look like, who you would become.  I would have sung lullabies to you, and Daddy would have read books to my tummy as I rocked gently in my rocking chair.

If you had been mine from the beginning, Daddy and I would have walked through the baby store, hand in hand, making plans for you.  I would have been so proud of my big baby belly, and thrilled with each tiny kick from inside.  As the time grew closer for you to come, we would have been so excited; we hardly would have been able to wait to meet you.

If you had been mine from the beginning, Daddy would have held my hand, lovingly urging me on as I struggled to bring you into the world.  Your first cry would have filled us with a joy like no other, and I would have cried happy tears as I held you in my arms for the first time.  Recognizing my voice, you would have looked up at me with your beautiful, trusting brown eyes...

...and you would have known instantly that I would love you forever. 


If you had been mine from the beginning, I would have held you close to my heart: nursing you, covering your downy baby head with millions of tiny kisses, marvelling at all your perfect little fingers and toes.  I would have held you for hours, drinking in your warmth and your sweet baby smell. 

If you had been mine from the beginning, your new-baby cry would have broken my heart.  I would have spent hours soothing you, if you needed to be soothed.  I would have rocked you and held you and changed you and fed you and burped you and kissed your sweet baby face another billion times.

If you had been mine from the beginning, I would have spent hours looking into your darling face. I would have cooed at you and smiled at you, and Daddy and I would have gazed down at you with love in our eyes, and we would have celebrated those first little sounds that you made...and every little thing you did after. When you rolled over, sat up by yourself, clapped your chubby hands, spoke your first words, took your first steps...we would have been right there cheering you on.

If you had been mine from the beginning, I would have kept you with me always.  I would have made up a gazillion silly little songs to animate our days together, and I would have read books to you and dressed you up and put tiny little bows in your hair.  As you grew, I would have taught you your numbers and your colors and your ABCs, and I would have pushed you on the swings at the park.  You would have laughed and squealed in delight, and looked at me with your beautiful, chocolate brown eyes...

...and you would have known that Mama would love you forever.


If you had been mine from the beginning, you would never have worried that someday, you might be abandoned.  You wouldn't, deep down, think that you're worthless and unlovable.

If you had been mine from the beginning, you wouldn't feel the need to control everything.  You wouldn't be so full of anger and fear and you wouldn't have the need to fight against me and Daddy and against everything we ask you to do.

If you had been mine from the beginning, things would have been so much easier for you...and for me...and for our family.  You would have been a happy, care-free child.  You would have let the adults worry about adult things, and you would have spent all your energy on simply being a child.

If you had been mine from the beginning, you would trust me, and you would trust my decisions.

You would trust that I'll love you forever, no matter what.


It's been a tough day, huh, kiddo?
It was the kind of day that makes me cry out to God, asking Him to take away the suffering I see in your heart.  The suffering that's in my heart, too.  I wish life could be easier for us, and especially for you, dear one. 

But I know you're going to make it.
We're going to make it. 
I believe in you, and I believe in us. 
We're fighters, you and me.


Oh, girl.  How I wish you had been mine from the beginning.

No matter how many days like today we have, no matter what you do or how angry I am or how horrible you feel, I promise you...I'm so thankful that you're mine now. 

Mama loves you, Butterfly. 
And I'll love you forever...no matter what.






  

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Oatmeal Waterfalls

Back to real life...back to joyful chaos.

The stowing-away-in-my-bedroom-with-a-newborn-babe days are long gone, the grandmas have stopped coming over to help, and the ever-elusive routine is slowly worming its way back into everyday existence.

I've missed it.  I've missed living life with my kids: teaching them new things, going on field trips, listening to their silliness and chatter, and all the simple little things, like watching them make waterfalls in their oatmeal at breakfast. 

I feel like myself again. 

Myself...plus one seven-week-old ball of poo and cuteness...

...plus one newly-two-year-old mischievously naughty mountain goat (aka The Tornado)...

...plus one ever-so-sweet, thrilled-to-be-a-big-brother-again, just-turned-five little warrior who is slowly recovering from a fever and a nasty cough...

...plus one darling, hyperactive, attention-starved seven-year-old big sister who is struggling to find her place in all this chaos...particularly the emotional chaos of her older siblings...and who is also wracked by a fever and a cough...

...plus one on-the-way-to-healing-but-oh-so-insecure ten-year-old RADling that is dealing with so many emotions that she just can't control, and who, most days, requires more of my emotional energy to parent than the younger four combined...

...and minus one lost and hurting thirteen-year-old RADling, angry at the world, who is slowly, hopefully, making a bit of progress outside our home.  We keep praying.

And wow, am I tired.  And overwhelmed.  And behind on my responsibilities, like laundry and cleaning and correcting schoolwork and sending out birth announcements and thank-you notes.

And wow, am I blessed.

So blessed to be overrun by all these little people.
To take care of them.
To feed them.
To teach them.
To love on them.
To laugh with them.
To learn life's lessons from them.
To spend all day, nearly every day, with them.

To be the hands and feet of Jesus to them.

My life is not what most would call paradise.  It's cluttered...and sticky...and smells a bit like diapers and dirty laundry.  I spend far too many days feeling like I'm accomplishing nothing, waving my hands in the air and singing the "Mom's going to Screeeeaaaaam!" song, which my brood gladly sings right along with me.

I have no peace and quiet.  There's no such thing as peace and quiet here: just noise and more noise and joyful noise...and screaming (see above).  I rarely get to spend time doing what I feel like doing.  I have (literally) no time off, someone always wants my attention, and I go to bed exhausted...just to wake up a few hours later to feed the baby.

And there is nothing more important that I could be doing with my life.

In the midst of all the chaos...the blowout diapers and the tinkle on the carpet, the toddler's mouth full of cat food, the screaming baby, the bossy big sisters, the arguing, the coughs and boogers and runny noses and the spit-up running down the front of my shirt... in the midst of all that, I get to enjoy life with my kids.  I have time to enjoy life with my kids. 

The world is fast-paced, career driven, and super-charged with personal ambition.  Far too few mommies, I fear, will ever have the time to enjoy oatmeal waterfalls at breakfast. 

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Angry

One of my sisters is dead.

Not my biological sister, not either of my sisters-in-law, but my sister nonetheless.

One of my RAD sisters, who understood the heartache of loving a child with Reactive Attachment Disorder.  Understood the pain and the long road, the uncertainty and the suffering that seems to have no end.

One of my sisters, DEAD, presumably at the hands of her RAD daughter.


I didn't know her well.  Had never, in fact, even met her.  We were bound together only by a support group full of parents raising children with RAD....all sharing that invisible bond of friendship that comes from finding someone...finally...who understands.

This group of friends has supported me in ways that no one else could, giving me that calm understanding and sometimes needed advice;  a safe place in which to vent the strongest of emotions.

Every frustration, every failure, every horrible day, every small victory. 
Shared trials and triumphs.
Disappointment.
Anger.
Tears.

They pass no judgement, for they are also on the frontlines, living the same uncertainty as I.

And now one of us is dead.


Today this hits me incredibly hard.  It has, after all, been only a few months since my own son threatened to kill me...and my husband...and our baby son.  Sure, it's easy to pass those threats off as simply a way for our son to manipulate; an attempt to get his own way and force us into action.  Such threats are usually just that.  Manipulation attempts.

But sometimes they aren't.  And then what?

I'm angry right now.  Angry that no one seems to take us seriously...the hurting, stressed, vigilant, exhausted and abused parents of these emotionally impaired kids.  'If only we loved those poor kids enough.  If only we were more structured as parents, or less structured, or more permissive, or less permissive, or more understanding, or more forgiving, or more this or more that.  If only, if only, if only.' 

So many people pass judgement and yet would be unable to stand up for a moment in the shoes of a RAD parent.

Yes, I'm angry. 

Angry that there is so little help to be found for these traumatized kids. 

Angry that so many mental health professionals have no training in attachment issues and don't understand RAD enough to make a difference.

Angry that we spent months making phone calls to everyone and anyone that would possibly listen, and yet our family, church family and close friends are the only ones that came to our aid.

Angry that our insurance (which is considered the best) won't pay for the only therapist in our area that specializes in adoption, attachment and RAD because the letters after his name aren't the "correct" letters. 

Angry that the adoption medicaid that is supposed to pick up the cost of anything our child needs has also refused to pay for our therapist simply because the insurance company would pay for someone else...none of whom specialize in adoption related issues.

Angry that insurance refuses to pay a cent for residential treatment for our son's severe mental illness, or any mental illness for that matter, but would gladly pay if he was an alcoholic or a drug addict or had an eating disorder.

Angry that the adoption agency and the foster care system from which our son came have no resources or motivation or desire to help.

Angry that the state of Michigan was going to force us to bring our violent, threatening son home for in-home counseling before they would help in any way.  They are more willing to put our five little children (and ourselves) in danger than to part with a single dollar.

Angry that even if the state of Michigan HAD agreed to fund treatment, it would not have been at a facility that specializes in RAD because they are all more than 200 miles away.  No exceptions would be made.

Angry that the only option the state of Michigan gave us if it was truly too dangerous to bring him home for counseling was to "Let the Juvenile Courts have him."  He is mentally ill and needs help, for crying out loud...not JAIL! 

Angry that the only way to get him into a facility that could help him through the Juvenile Court system was to actually abandon our son to the courts, leaving us open to charges of neglect.

Angry that no one seems to take mental illness seriously until an entire first grade class is murdered, or the parent of a RAD child is found stabbed to death in her home. 

And I'm angry that there is now one less person on the planet that understands what parents like us go through.  One less, instead of one more.  When what we desperately need are more.

It wasn't that many years ago when autistic children didn't get the help and intervention they needed, when insurance refused to pay for necessary, life-altering therapies, and when people didn't really understand what it meant to be autistic.  It wasn't too many years ago when children with learning difficulties were labelled "retarded" and were given no extra help...no chances to succeed to the best of their abilities.  Mercifully, these things are beginning to change.

How many systems will have to change, how many people will have to die, before children with mental illness get the help they need?  When will the insurance companies and the state agencies begin to care about what is best for the families and not about the dollars involved?  And all those parents...the ones in my support group, who are persevering through the worst...when will their concerns be taken seriously? 

Today I am rattled.  I hate to admit it, but whenever I hear a story like this, my heart skips a beat.  It hits too close to home, because my family is walking a similar path as that of this poor woman who lost her life.

God, please don't ever let that shattered family be mine.  


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Sister, you truly had a Joyous Heart.  Thank you for trying to make the world a better place and for all of your efforts on behalf of a traumatized child.  Thank you also for your input and your many words of encouragement.  You will be missed.

 





Friday, February 1, 2013

The Birth Story

I'm not much of an informational writer, or even an avid story-teller; I'm definitely more of a get-these-feelings-off-my-chest-before-I-explode-and-maybe-throw-in-some-humor-while-I'm-at-it type.  However, due to recent events (namely, the birth of our sixth child), I realize that some semblance of a birth story is in order.  So here is my attempt at informational story-telling in the best Lisa-form that I can manage:

You've all heard birth stories before.  First off, let me assure you that I have no intention of discussing things like mucus plugs, membranes, dilation, stitches or cervixes.  Come to think of it, I'm not even sure if cervixes is a word.  Only having one myself (and rarely speaking of it), I've never needed to use the plural form.

But I digress. 

In my mind, our birth story begins around January 17th...our baby's due date.  This is the date that had been engraved in my head since the beginning of the pregnancy.  The Golden Date.  The magical date by which I would no longer be pregnant, but would be holding my babe in my arms.

Alas, it was not to be. 

For the entire week before the due date, I thought he could be born at any time.
                        Our first baby came a week early, after all.

By the day before his due date, I was certain he would be born in a matter of hours.
                        Our third baby was born the day before his due date.

And as January 17th passed us by, I thought surely he would make his appearance within the next few days.
                        Our second baby was born four days after his due date. 
                   Surely this one wouldn't wait that long?

But those four days came and those four days went, and somehow my hormonal, emotional and impatient self came to a rather shocking conclusion.

I was going to be pregnant forever.

Looking back, I can see this was slightly irrational, but I think it's pretty safe to assume that few women who are more than nine months pregnant are rational.  And despite my doubts, we did actually have a baby.  He was born on January 23rd, 2013...six days past his due date.  Being as though I, too, frequently run late for important events, I thought it best not to begrudge the little guy his untimely arrival.  He obviously takes after his Mama.

Here are the details of his birth.

Going to bed on the night of the 22nd, I was still fairly convinced that the baby would never be born.  I felt no different than any other night, except for the fact that (due to nerve pain) I was having trouble using my right leg.  Each of the four-hundred-and-twelve times I got up to use the bathroom, I performed a macabre sort of peg-leg walk through our bedroom.  Hop, drag... hop, drag... hop, drag.  The normal thirty-five steps that it takes for a pregnant lady to waddle to the toilet (yes, OCD people count their steps...especially when there are frequent trips in the dark to the same place) became more like fifty little hop-drags.  Fun.

Anyway, on one such trip at about quarter after one in the morning, I returned to bed and had a really painful contraction.  I started paying attention for real at 1:22 am, when I realized that they were coming hard and fast...only two to three minutes apart, and lasting for a minute or more.  We immediately called my Dad, who was coming to stay with the kids, called the doctor, gathered our things, and prepared to leave.  At this point, the contractions were so bad that I was sincerely hoping that my husband wouldn't have to deliver our baby in the car on the side of a dark country road in the middle of winter.  The hospital was a good half hour or so away, but mercifully, the contractions slowed down to every four minutes as soon as I was sitting in the car.  We got to the hospital without incident.

Our three youngest.
The rest of the night and early morning is kind of a blur.  Emergency room.  The trip to the labor/delivery floor.  Triage.  Being wheeled to the delivery room.  And through it all...lots and lots and lots of super-painful contractions.

I have very little to say about labor itself.

1)  It hurts.

2)  I hate it.

3)  I love epidurals.

Once I had my epidural, I was home free.  Sure, it slowed down contractions and took a lot longer, but I, for one, would trade one hour of hellish pain for three hours of peaceful rest in a heartbeat.  Wonder Woman I am not.

And then, at nearly seven in the morning, he was all of a sudden ready to be born.  He was out in just a couple of pushes, and I watched (completely painlessly...bless you, epidural) first his head, and then his entire little self slip out of my body. 

It was breathtaking.

The most amazing thing about witnessing the birth of a baby (and I've now witnessed four of my own as well as the birth of a niece and a nephew), is that moment when the top of the baby's head is clearly visible.  You can see that little head moving from side to side, just waiting to be born, and you think (somewhat stupidly), "That's a real baby!" 

The whole process of pregnancy and labor and delivery is so crazy and incomprehensible, that I wonder if we as humans are just not quite able to grasp it. 


Even though I've known all along that this little person exists, have talked to and sung to and loved him for a solid nine months, have felt his kicks and heard his heart beating, it's like I can't fully grasp the miracle that's happening inside me until I've seen it.  And then, after all that waiting and all that pain, I see the top of that tiny head, and I am acutely aware of the presence of God.  In that moment, I'm in awe of the Creator like at no other time.

Darling Baby Boy
So I know I said that I hate labor, which is true...and not true...all at the same time.  Labor is awful, but it's also the most incredible thing I've ever experienced.  The worst pain I could fathom followed by the highest elation and the biggest sense of wonder imaginable.

I gave God my body and, in return, was given the privilege to participate in one of His greatest miracles...the creation of our new baby son.

Welcome to the world, little one.






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A few observations and notes about our birth experience that didn't quite fit into my story:

Proud Daddy. 
I didn't get a picture of him with a Long John.
1) My wonderful hubby never leaves my side from the moment I have my first contraction until the moment we leave the hospital to come home, except for frequent trips to the cafe for food.  We love our time in the hospital together bonding with that new baby (and each other), and we've joked that we need to keep having babies because it's the only way we get a few days away.

2) During our stay, I sometimes wonder if my husband is more impressed by the hospital food than by our newborn child.  I certainly hear a lot about those hospital Long Johns and the sandwiches by the pound.

3) I can now safely say that no one has ever been pregnant forever.

4) We only make hairy babies.  This one, however, is the least hairy one we've had.

5) Our son's birth weight was 8 lbs, 0.6 oz.  This sparked a debate between nurses about whether it should be rounded down to 8 lbs even, or rounded up to 8 lbs, 1 oz.  It's documented both ways.  I, for one, am still confused.
 
6) If you aren't a personal friend, there is a good chance you will never know our baby's name.  For privacy, we don't use our kids' names on the blog, so he'll be known for now as Baby A.  I assure you, though, that it's a really cool, uncommon name that I love.  I apologize if you have OCD and can't sleep tonight until you've exhausted all names beginning with the letter A.  Do you also count your steps on the way to the bathroom?